Just showing up is 80% of success. Florida International took it from there.
Led by future NBA players Raja Bell and Carlos Arroyo, the Golden Panthers stunned Michigan 69-62 on Nov. 13, 1998, in FIU Arena.
“This was the greatest victory in FIU history,” President Modesto A. Maidique said after the game.
As such, it’s also the sports moment judged the greatest in FIU history.
And it almost wasn’t played.
Michigan agreed to a home-and-home series against FIU, holding off the Panthers 71-62 in 1997 at Ann Arbor. (Arroyo and Bell led FIU to a 21-8 record, the school’s last 20-win season.)
The Wolverines were scheduled play at FIU on Dec. 26 the following year. But because they were also set to play Miami on Dec. 27, they asked to change the date. They offered one alternate — Nov. 13 — and FIU jumped at the opportunity.
“I have to give [Michigan] credit,” Shakey Rodriguez, FIU’s head coach, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “They knew they were coming down here to play a good team, but they still came. Ninety percent of the big programs would have bought this game out.”
The defending Big Ten champions, who appeared in the NCAA Tournament six of the previous seven seasons, might have wished they had.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Shakey’s team, but we didn’t play very well,” Michigan coach Brian Ellerbe told the Sun Sentinel. “That wasn’t our team out there. We just didn’t execute, which is difficult to swallow.”
Bell, a Boston University transfer, led the way with 23 points, scoring the team’s final six points. Arroyo tallied 12 of his 17 points in the second half. The Panthers took the lead for good at 40-39 with 11:24 remaining.
And the crowd went wild. Many of the 4,638 in attendance — an FIU record that still stands — stormed the court and mobbed the team in celebration.
“This was a statement game for our program,” Rodriguez told The Miami Herald. “We’ve been preaching that we’ve got a pretty good basketball team, but I don’t think people understood. I hope the word gets out now. FIU is for real.”
FIU honored Bell and Arroyo by retiring their numbers (No. 13 and No. 30). The banners hang in FIU Arena rafters, a fitting tribute to a high point in the school’s basketball history.
Above: Carlos Arroyo (30) and Raja Bell (13) helped FIU topple Michigan in front of a record crowd at FIU Arena on Nov. 13, 1998. (Courtesy FIU Athletics)
THIS WEEK’S GREATEST MOMENTS
• Monday: Coastal Carolina (update) and Florida International
• Tuesday: Fordham and Furman
• Wednesday: Gardner-Webb and George Mason
• Thursday: George Washington and Grand Canyon
• Friday: Green Bay and Harvard